Review: Magic Words – The Extraordinary Life of Alan Moore / Author: Lance Parkin / Publisher: Aurum Press / Release Date: November 7th
A towering, instantly recognizable icon who hides himself away in untrendy Northampton; the author of best selling graphic novels who has turned his back on lucrative deals with DC and Marvel. Alan Moore is a conundrum, an enigma, and an oxymoron. Magic Words is a brave attempt to get to grips with one of the titans of modern pop culture.
The book is subtitled “the Extraordinary Life of Alan Moore”, but the private man remains defiantly elusive throughout, although we do learn a few nuggets: that Moore took LSD when he was 17, that he lived in a ménage a trois for a number of years and that he doesn't have an internet connection. This is, primarily, an account of Moore's professional career, which (at least as Lance Parkin tells it) divides into two sharply contrasting phases.
Phase one was the meteoric ascent to geek superstardom, one seminal title following another like chart-busting tracks on a greatest hits album: his first break on Warrior with Marvelman and V for Vendetta (courtesy of Starburst's very own Dez Skinn); his work on 2000AD; then his genre-redefining revamp of an obscure DC character called Swamp Thing; and finally the mainstream breakthrough of Watchmen.
If phase one was almost dreamlike, phase two has had, at times, a tinge of nightmare. It kicked off with Moore severing all ties with DC, part of a pattern of bitter feuds (he'd already had vocal fallings-out with Marvel and Dez Skinn, and more were to follow). It was a period that saw Moore subsidizing difficult, personal long-term projects such as From Hell and Lost Girls with gun-for-hire work and his flamboyant America's Best Comics line. There has been plenty for fans to get their teeth into, but anyone who feared that Moore had lost the plot wouldn't have been reassured by his declaration in 1994 that he had become a magician and was now worshipping the snake god Glycon.
Parkin struggles dutifully to make sense of Moore's mystical beliefs, but it's a big ask, and anyway surely the whole appeal of the occult is that it's beyond rational debate? By the end, Moore continues to be an unknowable figure, ever in retreat over some horizon of his own devising. Still, readers are sure to love the chapters about the creation of those dazzling early masterpieces, and the book also casts a light on the history of comics from the late '70s onwards. You might be surprised to learn just how awash with money the industry was in the late '80s and early '90s, with eye-watering sums being doled out to top scribes: for instance, Image paid Moore $100,000 for writing a single issue of Spawn. With figures like that being bandied about, you can't blame a kid from Northampton for going a little potty.